- Associated Press - Sunday, February 15, 2015

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - The University of Missouri’s flagship campus in Columbia is testing out a new gender-neutral housing option starting this fall.

The 16-bed space in College Avenue Hall will be open to students of any gender, The Columbia Daily Tribune (https://bit.ly/1AFhqp6 ) reports. The goal is to create a safe, secure housing option for those students who are transgender or gender nonconforming.

Frankie Minor, director of Residential Life at MU, and his team heard from students that there is interest and need for such a space. He said creating it was made easier when the Board of Curators added gender expression and gender identity to the UM System’s nondiscrimination policy last year.

“When we say that this is important to our institutions, it’s great, but it makes it clear when we’re following through with programs and resources that promote inclusiveness and a welcoming environment,” Minor said.

Minor said about 150 universities nationwide have incorporated similar plans, including Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville. One thing that sets MU apart is allowing incoming freshmen the option to select the space.

Minor said when student government passed resolutions in support of gender-neutral housing, they wanted it for all students. Unlike 20 years ago when on-campus housing was 60 to 65 percent freshmen, they now make up closer to 90 percent of the almost 7,000 students in residence halls, he said, so limiting that population would be significant.

“In the past, those students who are gender nonconforming are really starting to explore that in college because they have more freedoms being away from home for the first time,” Minor said. “But it’s happening younger and younger, as our country is understanding it and as these students are seeing more support networks.”

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Information from: Columbia Daily Tribune, https://www.columbiatribune.com

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